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Chlorophyll Powered Everything

August 30, 2013 | Farming, Gardening, Grow It, Market Garden | 10 comments | Author:

1308 clorophyll green manures - 1

The winter green manure mix has done it’s job, and done it well. Now for the transformation – green carpet turns to living mulch turns into seed bed.

It’s planting time. 

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This is the first winter we’ve put our entire market garden to green manures – to rest the land, to improve the soil, and to create a bit of balance.

All Spring, Summer and Autumn long, we take and take and take from this patch of land – we harvest roots, leaves, fruits, all of them composed of nutrients that the plants have mined from beneath this surface. Good food given to us by the soil, and by the sun. And hard work.

Over the growing months, we give back to the soil in the form of compost, animal manures, rock dusts, worm castings, compost teas, liquid seaweed and growing techniques that aim to honour the integrity and health of the soil food web, as much as we can.

But it’s still hard to find a balance, to ensure you’re moving your soils forwards, not backwards. Regeneration is the name of the game here.

So. Winter. Rest and recover. The farm is quiet. Those of us still here eat potatoes (oh so many potatoes) and pork and lamb and pumpkins and forage for greens. And the garden is a thick, luscious carpet of green manure plants, left completely alone.

Spring is here now. It’s time. Time to plant bazillions of seedlings in trays and in soilblocks, and time to make up garden beds for direct sowing of radish and carrot and and swedes and peas and broadbeans.

The green manures are plump and ready – perfect for turning back into the soil and creating more biomass and nutrient humus.

When you pick up a handful of the mulch, you can squeeze and watch the chlorophyll drip out.

Before, after, during
Before, after, during

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This is where good food starts. Not with a shed full of drums and a boom spray, but with this green liquid sunlight, turned into the soil as soon as it’s cut from its upright, leafy form.

You can almost hear the earthworms singing.

>> More posts about growing clean food at

In about a month we’re running an Intro to Organic Market Gardening course at Milkwood Farm. If you’re up for spending three days learning the craft of growing good food damn well, here’s your chance.

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  • Jennifer August 30, 2013 at 6:19 am | Reply

    So, you till the soil every year to incorporate the green manure? Is there a way to grow green manures in a no till system?

    1. milkwoodkirsten August 30, 2013 at 7:27 am | Reply

      Hey Jennifer – yes there is, but there’s a big trade-off in production rates as a result. It also depends on the crop you’re planting, as to how suitable planting seedlings into a thicket of green manure roots goes.

      Which is fine if that’s how you want to play it, but for intensive vegetable production, turning the green manures into the soil is a great way to cycle nutrients quickly and create high production rates, so we don;t have to go to the supermarket to cover the food we need for our on-farm catering.

  • axsanford August 30, 2013 at 6:29 am | Reply

    So the green manure was first mowed, then roto-tilled in, and then planted? Just want to make sure I get your procedure down! Great ideas! What were some of your cover crops?

    1. milkwoodkirsten August 30, 2013 at 7:28 am | Reply

      Yep that’s it – mowed, tilled, beds made, planting. Cover crops were a bassica mix with oats and vetch.

  • David Trees August 30, 2013 at 6:32 am | Reply

    Are they all the Warre Hives in the background of the roto tiller shot?

    Is it a roto tiller? Or a walk behind spader?

    Nice post with a definite spring feel.

    1. milkwoodkirsten August 30, 2013 at 7:22 am | Reply

      HA! No those are concrete blocks, not Warre hives :) This is a hired roto-tiller – we wish it was a spader, but they’re exxy and we haven’t been able to afford one yet. A spader would be awesome, but we work with that we can access in the meantime…

  • Kiri August 30, 2013 at 6:59 am | Reply

    Beautiful post and pictures. I like the way you paralleled the garden’s rest with the human’s rest. It sounds like a good way to live.

  • Gen August 30, 2013 at 7:08 am | Reply

    What a great blog! It’s so interesting to see some of the behind the scenes preparation that goes into organic farming. Thank you for sharing.

  • disconnectedlandscapes August 30, 2013 at 8:58 am | Reply

    Reblogged this on disconnectedlandscapes.

  • pamela tilbrook September 3, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Reply

    After the green manure has been turned or rotary hoed into the soil, how long must you wait before putting transplants into the the soil?


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